This hangnail: the good sweet ouch of a small
tearing without thinking here on my thumb;
a deep red line creeps circling the dull nail,
a dark slow-welling of blood running down
and around the nail bed. Should it sizzle,
should it smoke a little above the tip
of my left thumb; sulfurous devilry
—stench twitching noses with a smell of rot—
like inferno on my hand on this bus,
with nameless riders.
Dante come to life
in ripped thumbnail blood fresh from a circuit
around the lightless insides of my skin
at six quarts a minute; mostly all me
and a bit of something not very nice.
By Way of Introduction
Because I am characterized by the possession of a feature rather
than its absence, and I express agreement and permission; my attitude,
my intention is constructive, and there is no possibility of
On a map, find the symbol of destination, of treasure, “here,” the marked spot;
take and turn it forty-five degrees; lift and study me: two equal-length strokes, look
through and point this sight in my direction: I am a red jumper cable with glistening copper
Signifying the crucial Rh factor in your blood, I deal only with matters of fact,
of experience, not speculative not theoretical; but then also
I typify any of the Fire and Air signs, and so too I’m
In all matters of mathematics, my convention is to denote only
commutative operations, or sometimes exclusive or logical disjunction;
most call me a binary operator, but honestly I am a simple Latin
Manually controlling soft stops: all notes high, regular, well-paced; and
showing the occasional augmented triad with two major thirds, know that I can also
show light, shadow, and color true to the original; that I am beneficial, laudable,
Expressing a quality in its basic primary degree; I move toward
the focus of excitation; I contain an electric charge opposite
to that carried by my electrons; I am greater than zero; I am
I am sure, so very certain: of that magnet, this electrical cord, the nerve
firing behind the eye—action potential polarizing as it passes my image,
this new thought entering and with it bringing a kind of happiness in
this end of the battery is the one that goes in this way.
Noah Stetzer is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and also a scholarship recipient from the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Writers, as well as from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. He was a winner of the 2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Poetry and the 39th New Millennium Award for Poetry. Noah’s poems have appeared in the Good Men Project, A&U Magazine, the Collagist, the Volta, Tinderbox, and Phantom Press. He lives in the Washington, DC, area. Selected by Dawn Lundy Martin.
Image © Justin Baeder via Flickr Creative Commons.